Tag Archives: Animation

Smashing Maya Tutorials

I’ve been feeling totally horrible all week, so it’s hard to get myself motivated to go find interesting things to blog about. So, tonight, I decided to visit some of the sites I find most enjoyable. Before you know it, I’m finding a whole lot of things that I think you’d want to know about.

One of my favorite online publications is SMASHING MAGAZINE. bump_mapIt’s just full of wonderful and amazing articles. It’s primarily a design magazine so it’s a visual treat to spend time with it. They also offer a lot of great freebies and links to terrific tutorials. Two that got me excited tonight were the links to ULTIMATE MAYA TUTORIALS and 50 TRADITIONAL DRAWING TECHNIQUES. Check out the tutorials and dig around in the magazine. It’s worth your time.

Coming Up For Air

priest_movie_posterHoly cow! I just looked at the date stamp for my last post and it was almost a month ago … how can that be? This is the problem with building websites for other people … you forget about your own cuz you’re always working on someone else’s. Our move to the coast took up a lot of time and energy. I’m just now starting to feel like this is home. Six weeks later. Geeeeeez.

Production started Monday on PRIEST, the film Alec is working on. His insane working schedule just got crazier. Last night he came home totally sunburned and clucking like a chicken. Apparently there were animal wranglers and chickens on set yesterday.

According to Fangoria and The Hollywood Reporter, Karl Urban has taken the lead villain’s role in PRIEST. He’ll take on the vampire-battling priest played by Paul Bettany, a sheriff portrayed by TWILIGHT’s Cam Gigandet and Maggie Q’s warrior priestess in the postapocalyptic scenario.

Directed by Scott Stewart from a script by Cory Goodman, PRIEST casts Urban as Black Hat. The New Zealand-born actor, recently seen as Dr. McCoy in STAR TREK. PRIEST is targeting an August 13, 2010 release date.

Reading List

One of the great things about being a professor is that I was always getting (and reading) new books. Publishers shipped them to us constantly because they hoped we would adopt them for our classes. If it’s a popular class it can mean hundreds and hundreds of sales. In addition to Review copies of books, it seemed that I was always picking up something or another for class. Something wonderful and exciting to share (to go along with one of the BEST things about teaching, always something new to LEARN). Which leads me to mention my latest reading musts!

I was reading HOW TO WOW IN FLASH on the plane. Written by Colin Smith, the book is nine chapters of the things you most need to know and use when building a flash website … things like incorporating a dynamic image page, a scrolling text box and bitmap caching for faster image loads. Best of all, it’s written from a designer’s point of view. So, it included the code but emphasis is on how it’s going to look and work. Great book. I’m looking for more books like it.

I think I already mentioned the Rockable Press book HOW TO BE A ROCKSTAR WORDPRESS DESIGNER. Still amazed at how accessible PHP, CSS and WP became after reading that book. I’ve taught CSS in the past and, had this book been around, it would have been required reading because it takes you really far, really fast.

Emily Dickinson's HERBARIUMWhile I’m unpacking (groan), I also like to take time to read things for pleasure (gasp). I’m working on the Emily Dickinson story so I’ve got two wonderful pleasure books I’m perusing (now that I’ve got my books unpacked). The first is the Emily Dickinson HERBARIUM, a copy of the 400+ plants and flowers that 14-year-old Emily collected, pressed and labeled in her own inimitable hand. In later years, she would use plant and flower imagery in many of her poems. The HERBARIUM is the genus of her genius. Alec picked this up for me in Manhattan at Strand Bookstore (18 miles of rare books). I love it, absolutely love it.

I’m also reading Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s FACE TO FACE WITH EMILY DICKINSON. The daughter of Austin and Susan Dickinson, the niece of Emily, Martha has the unique perspective of someone who grew up in the presence of these two amazing women. Her firsthand account of their lives is fascinating.

Cam Gigandet to Star in Screen Gem’s PRIEST

priestxNews on the internet is that Cam Gigandet (who played the evil vampire in TWILIGHT) is going to be starring in a new movie called PRIEST. Screen Gems, a division of Sony Corp will be distributing it. To be directed by Scott Stewart, PRIEST is a horror, Western, vampire flick.

The film is set in a world ravaged by centuries of war between humans and vampires. People are congregated in cities for their “safety and protection.” The skies are polluted, there is little privacy, daily religious observance is required. Only rebels and outcasts dare to live outside the city walls in the Wasteland. Gigandet will play a sheriff who is part vampire who joins the rescue team to save his niece. Michael De Luca, Josh Donen, and Mitchell Peck will be producing the film.

Jordan Wins an Emmy


My blogging has been atrocious, of late, and I am quite disappointed in myself. I have a really good excuse this time (of course, I always think I have a really good excuse). This time it’s a really good one. I just got back from Los Angeles where I went to see Jordan Pack, a former animation student, win a student Emmy for an animated film he produced. The film was entitled KITES. The film is the story of a boy who comes to deal with his Grandfather’s death by doing something they always did together, flying kites.

Following his graduation from MCC, he was accepted in the Animation and Film program at Brigham Young University. He produced this film his senior year at BYU. He now works for Avalanche (Disney’s gaming arm) were he is a generalist (meaning he does all facets of the gaming production including design, texturing, modeling and such).

Jordan is a really terrific guy … talented, hard-working, creative, generous and kind. He even offered the director (Jed Henry, standing behind him) one-half of the prize money because of all his hard work. He’s just a really decent guy.

Anyway, the ceremony was on Saturday evening at Sony’s Culver City Studios. Fourteen awards were given out. The top three candidates in each category were in attendance. The winner was announced that evening (no one knew who would be the first prize winner). Jordan, James and Jed’s film KITES was the first place winner.

During his acceptance speech, Jordan thanked his wife, his crew and his teachers. He mentioned two professors from BYU (who were in attendance with me). He also thanked Mesa Community College professors Jim Garrison and Cyndi Greening. It was pretty cool to be called out in front of everyone.

Among the presenters were Chris O’Donnell who played Robin to George Clooney’s BATMAN, Masa Oki who plays Hiro from the television show HEROES, and Pauley Perrett who stars on NCIS. There were tons of other industry folks there. Jorge Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua (writer/producerrs of EL TIGRE: THE ADVENTURES OF MANNY RIVERA) were the presenters for the animated film category. During their speech, Jorge revealed that he had won the Student Emmy ten years earlier and it had completely changed his life.

Click on the image above to see the photos from the event.

Jordan Pack Wins Student Emmy

Former 3D animation and film student jordan Pack just emailed that a film he produced won the student emmy. Very cool and exciting! Another student, Steven Glauser commented on Facebook that he works with Jordan at Disney. How very cool! Just had to get it up right away.

An Animated MARY AND MAX

While I was watching MARY AND MAX, the opening film at Sundance, I kept thinking that it all seemed so familiar. The style of the claymation characters, the sensibility of the storytelling, and the director. It all just seemed so familiar.mary.jpgThe director, Adam Elliott made a funny comment that being a stop-motion animation filmmaker was like making love and being stabbed to death at the same time. Oh the pleasure and the pain. It seems that only a true purist with a high threshold for pain would embrace clay animation. MARY AND MAX involved a 57-week shoot with 212 puppets, 133 sets and more than 1,026 mouths cast so the characters can speak. What was paining me was not knowing why it all seemed so familiar. And then, (after a few short minutes on the internet), I remembered. max.jpgAdam Elliott was the same fellow who did the short film HARVIE KRUMPET. The Academy-Award Winning film (2003) was at Sundance 2004. Harvie was a one-testicled fellow who married a nurse and raised an adopted Thalidomide daughter. Like MARY AND MAX, Harvie was a typically-flawed human (a familiar theme from Elliott) who had a number of surprisingly gruesome life experiences and lots of graphic body functions. Like Harvie, Max and Mary endured difficult existences but found peace and satisfaction at the end. At the end of MARY AND MAX, I found myself crying for them, for me, for all of humanity. Such fragile creatures we humans are.


Pamela Jo Bowman and Cyndi Greening have been teaching 3D animation, filmmaking and media arts to individuals and groups at Phoenix Country Day School, Arizona State University, and Maricopa Community Colleges since 1989. They took a 14-member student crew to Zambia, Africa to make the first dramatic narrative feature film in that country and a documentary about the experience. Their students work in the the film industry, for graphic design firms, advertising agencies, print companies and game manufacturers. Their students are also use their skills to make personal histories and commemorative items for their families and friends.

Space is limited. To reserve your space in the class, call or send an email to Pamela Jo Bowman using the information below. Invite your friends and other Mac enthusiasts to participate in this valuable and useful class.


Email: pamelabowman2@cox.net OR cynematik@cox.net
Call: 480.577.6380 OR 602.740.1446

Time: 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Place: Val Vista Club house
Class limited to 20
Cost: only $30.00
CHANGED Date: Thursday, June 26

Your Macintosh or PC laptop
Your digital camera with photos
Cables for downloading
USB drive

Understand your Macintosh tools
Use your software more effectively
Find your files quickly
Back up your data and free up space

Download your images from your camera
Set the right resolution
Color correct your photographs
Get better skintones

Fix scratches and remove spots
Add contrast and snap
Insert or remove people

Make a movie and export
Make a slideshow and export
Add music

Animation Workshop


INTENSIVE Animation Class using Maya

Next week, I’ll be teaching an animation intensive for people who would like to learn Autodesk (formerly Alias) Maya, the leading software used by filmmakers, gamers and virtual reality modellers. By the end of the week, attendees will be able to model in all three types of geometry—polygons (typically used in gaming), NURBs (primarily for filmmaking) and Subdivision Surfaces (complex modeling). Emphasis is on real-world uses and applications of the software. If you have an interest or know someone who might want to take advantage of this opportunity, email CYNEMATIK at Cox dot Net.

Date: Monday, June 9 – Friday, June 16
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Place: Scottsdale
Laptop computer
3-Button Mouse (an absolute must)
Notebook, pencil, pen

Tentative Schedule

Day 1
Maya Interface, Tools and Menus
Model aircraft using polygon geometry
Apply surface color, texture and insignia
Keyframe animate flight path, Render movie

Day 2
Maya Channel Box and Attribute Editors
Model objects using NURBs
Revolve command to create chess pieces
Loft command to shape hills and mountains
Planar command to build log cabin
Apply surface materials & textures
Render stills

Day 3
Maya Hypergraph and Hypershader
car1.jpgBiRail command to build NURBs car
Apply surface color and insignia
Use path animation
Create background, Render

Day 4
Model creature using polygon geometry for gaming
Apply organic surface texture using Brush command
Create skeleton joints and rig creature
Walk cycle and Animate

Day 5
Dynamics in Maya
Build Rube Goldberg device
Animate using all methods
Render final movie

Maya Tutorials

Since I’ve been on a tutorial kick, I decided to go looking for good Maya tutorials. I love Maya. The software package is just so deep, there is so much one can do with that program. So, I have found a lot of sites with tutorials but I do not have tremendous confidence about the sophistication of many tutorials and, in fact, some tutorials teach inefficient or improper techniques. For example, game modelers need to monitor their polygon count and their polygon shape to avoid malformations in animation. Film character animators are more likely to use a NURBs patch model and have to pay attention to edge looping for better blendshapes when the character speaks. So, a list of tutorials and a word of caution. They always say, “Begin with the end in mind.” Know what you’re final goal is so you make the proper decisions along the way.

Jordan Animated at BYU

jordan001.jpgFormer animation student Jordan Pack, now a BYU graduate and married man, is finishing up his animated short film at BYU and graciously sent some stills and information on the film. Jordan was always an exceptional student and he continues with a mentorship by Pixar on the short, KITES. According to Jordan, the film is about Alex, a young boy who has to deal with the death of his grandfather. In a way, the grandpa comes back to soothe the boy and help him through his loss, sadness and frustration. The film is being made in Maya and Renderman, naturally. As I mentioned in an earlier email, Jordan is also working in the Disney gaming environment. Not too shabby, Jordan. Not too shabby at all.

jordan002.jpgIt has been a while since I put a shout out to AnimWatch. Always one of my favorite sites, AnimWatch keeps tabs on all the animated shorts that are in production out there. It’s a sweet site. You can read summaries, look at stills, concept art and, sometimes, animatics. It’s a great resource for animators. Speaking of good resources for animators, HighEnd 3D is one of the best for tutorials and shaders and such. Another of my very favorite sites for tutorials and DVDs is The Gnomon Workshop. And, for sheer joy of looking, be sure to visit Craig Mullins’ GOODBRUSH site.

Mad About Modo

modoApollo.jpgI love the Knoll brothers. No, they’re not a musical group, like the Neville Brothers. They’re the whizzes behind Adobe Photoshop and Knoll Light Factory. They’ve done amazing things in the world of digital visuals. Brother Thomas created the digital editing program that has become a verb in the common lexicon. People (even Ross and Chandler on FRIENDS) talk about how they “photoshopped the image.” Brother John is an award-winning visual effects guy who also did a program that adds light effects to still photos and motion footage. I enjoy going to the Luxology site to look at the Image Gallery. Luxology created modo (now on version 3.01), an extraordinary modeling, texturing and rendering tool. On the site, there’s actually an image John Knoll modeled for the film APOLLO 11. There’s even a rave endorsement. That’s not too shabby. If only there were an animation component in it … until they can get that integrated, I’m hanging with Maya … although I’m sure they’re feeling the pressure of the modo competition.

Animation Friends and Students

Some fun emails recently. Former MCC Animation student, Jordan Pack is up at BYU finishing his program. A terrific and talented guy, Jordan updated me on his exciting adventures with Pixar and Disney.

jordanPack.jpgJordan says, “Animation life is also good. I work part time at Avalanche, Disney’s game studio in SLC, as a work builder (modeling, texturing, and game play set-up). I’m finishing producing a short animation mentored by Pixar. Two of my classmates/friends just got accepted as interns. So I am hopeful that there is an opportunity there for me, too.” Jordan has a second website with artwork and commentary. I’m expecting great things from Jordan.

Talk about a blast from the past! I grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Much of my family and some of my dear friends still live in that small town. Two young fellows from Chippewa decided to get into the film industry. Jason Behnke came to Arizona to attend Scottsdale Community College’s film program and ultimately went to LA where he now works as an editor. One of his good friends, Noah Arntson went to school in Florida and now lives in LA and does 3D work. Noah has also worked on live action films like the Jim Carey film, BRUCE ALMIGHTY. It was fun to get an email from him with a link to his portfolio.

Modo 3D Modeling

I’ve been teaching Maya for the last three years. I have to admit, I do love Maya. It’s an amazing and wonderful piece of software. It consists of four modules—modeling, rendering, dynamics and animation. modoGlass.jpgIt’s a sophisticated piece of software. Recently, however, my son turned me onto Luxology’s modo. And, you can try it for 30 days for free.

Modo (they always write it with a lowercase “m” but I just can’t make myself do that at the beginning of a sentence) is a terrific 3D modeler with seamless, sophisticated, multi-threaded Paint and Rendering capability built-in. Modo allows you to move between polygon and SubD geometry by simply touching the TAB key. Modo’s UV texture editor is soooooo much easier to use than Maya’s. This is one area where Modo really stomps Maya. The modo Shader Tree is similar to the Shake Shader Tree—both are dynamic and easy to modify. And, it renders like nobody’s business.

What I don’t like … no animation. So, everything has to be moved to another application. If I were doing product modeling or character modeling only, I wouldn’t care BUT, since I do want to move things, it gets a bit frustrating. Thus far, moving models into Maya hasn’t proven to be as easy as I’d like it to be but I haven’t given up, yet. More updates as I learn more about how to better integrate these two tools.

I almost forgot to mention, Luxology offers a number of Tutorials and Training Papers.

Film Grants

movieMoney.jpgFirst, an apology for being so lax about blogging. I’m trying to get back in the swing and generate more information about independent films, independent filmmaking, animation and visual arts. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about Other People’s Money or, even better, filmmaking grants! If you’re looking for funding, you might want to start with this list!

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